What’s the ideal first job duration for the ‘career nomad’?

Gone are the days when job stability meant a respectable tenure of at least a decade in a single organisation

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Traditionally speaking, a person’s first job gives them an avenue to explore their capabilities and build the necessary skills to succeed in their professional skills. However, with the industry becoming more employee-driven, it is not uncommon to see people switch jobs with a frequency that might be considered preposterous by a professional from yesteryears. This shift has not been sudden either. The trend may, however, have been fuelled by the global phenomenon called ‘The Great Resignation’.

For Dwarakanath P, HR leader & non-executive member, GSK, the trend has not emerged today but has been developing for the past 15 years. “In my time, a respectable service of about 25 years with an organisation earned recognition and attracted rewards for a person. It later went down to 20, then 10, and then five years. Now, an employee who stays on with a company for one or two years may even be considered for incentives!” he says.

“As long as the reason for the change is good, it is justified. If one is just moving from one job to another without any reason, then it does not reflect well. Such a culture of regular job shifts is especially high in the IT and the start-up ecosystems”

Ashish Anand, CHRO, SAR Group

The statement is highly relevant as many company’s today reward their employees with ESOPs and other incentives after just a short tenure. Dwarakanath attributes this to the fact that opportunities have increased over time, which have led to a change in the outlook of today’s worker.

“In my time, a respectable service of about 25 years with an organisation earned recognition and attracted rewards for a person. It later went down to 20, then 10, and then five years. Now, an employee who stays on with a company for one or two years may even be considered for incentives!”

Dwarakanath P, HR leader & non-executive member, GSK

With this change in outlook, the pre-conceived take on an ideal timeframe for a first job has also changed. “Earlier, I would have said that five years in the first job should have been a must. That time frame can be deemed relevant as a person can be expected to attain complete training and would have undergone the required training,” says Dwarakanath. “But now, with the changing times, that time frame would have to also reduce, although it may still be relevant to the field in which one is operating,” Dwarkanath further explains. “People are willing to take chances. They are changing jobs at the drop of a hat. Attrition has also risen with the popularisation of the work-from-home culture. Hence, I would still consider people working their first job for one to two years as having served an ideal time frame,” he says.

Mahipal Nair, CHRO, South Asia, Nielson IQ, feels that it is difficult to pin down the ideal time period for a first-time job. However, he makes an interesting observation. “For NielsonIQ, we recommend a person to serve at least 18-24 months in one role before moving or applying for another position within the organisation. Internally, if I am benchmarking this time frame, then I don’t see why the concept will not be applicable for external hiring as well,” he tells HRKatha.

He further adds that for a larger organisation, a person with experience of less than a year would still be considered as a fresher as they may not have acquired the skills relevant to the job. However, the learning curve of the person may also play a role. “The impact of people serving little time in their first jobs would definitely be under question at the time of hiring. Employers generally distrust such professionals when it comes to a longer association. Some may be open to it, but for most employers, this is reflective of impatience. Anything below one to two years in the first job would attract seem suspicious,” Nair concludes.

“The impact of people serving little time in their first jobs would definitely be under question at the time of hiring. Employers generally distrust such professionals when it comes to a longer association”

Mahipal Nair, CHRO, South Asia, Nielson IQ

Ashish Anand, CHRO, SAR Group, admits that although times may have changed, the ideal learning curve acquisition still requires substantial time for professionals at the beginning of their career.

“Times have, of course, changed. Still, it remains important to learn the basics, especially in one’s first job, to learn about the function and make a meaningful contribution to the organisation. The first five years of a person’s professional life form the learning period. If a person serves less than two to three years in the first job, it is neither here nor there,” he says.

“As long as the reason for the change is good, it is justified. If one is just moving from one job to another without any reason, then it does not reflect well. Such a culture of regular job shifts is especially high in the IT and the start-up ecosystems,” Anand further adds.

Amit Das, CHRO, Bennett Coleman & Co., in conversation with HRKatha, explains that the ideal time frame for a person in his first job should be relevant to the time they may take to dial down their learning.

“In this age of ‘career nomads’, people who are more open to experiences, have a high tolerance for ambiguity, and very high learning agility. It is difficult to pinpoint the ideal duration of a person’s first job. Therefore, an alternative question we can ask is, ‘How long does it take to learn a job, perform it at full potential, and deliver a positive return on all the investment (salary, training, administration, benefits, cost of seat) in me?,” enunciates Das.

“Hiring managers or recruiters would look at not only the tenure within an organisation but also how candidates progress in their careers. If there is no change in a young professional’s role for four years, the resume will certainly be stable, but may not necessarily be representative of someone with high learning agility”

Amit Das, CHRO, Bennett Coleman & Co.

Further elaborating on the time period that may be required for young professionals entering the workforce to ensure that their learning curve is on track, Das states that it may vary from seven months for a customer service/sales role to even 30 months for a data scientist.

Speaking about how the first job experience reflects on a person’s CV, Das says, “Smart recruiters take into account the number of times candidates hop jobs before reaching the break-even point. Hiring managers or recruiters would look at not only the tenure within an organisation but also how candidates progress in their careers. If there is no change in a young professional’s role for four years, the resume will certainly be stable, but may not necessarily be representative of someone with high learning agility,” he concludes, making a case for those exhibiting a frequent job shifting pattern.

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